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Last time we talked the Knights were still flickering on and off a bit. Now they’ve won seven in a row, are a point behind the Flames. What’s been the difference?
The biggest difference has been getting players back in the lineup. It started with Nate Schmidt coming off the suspension, then Paul Stastny got back into the lineup, and then Max Pacioretty got fully healthy. As that happened they began to start playing more consistently and it’s continued even through this recent rash of injuries. They look a lot
like the team they did last year once again with a simplistic style of defending, a tenacious forecheck, and transition game that gives many teams nightmares.
Paul Stastny has recently returned from a long-term absence. How is he fitting in?
Unbelievably well. He’s such a smart player that almost on every shift he does something that makes you say “Damn, Paul is good.” Playing with Alex Tuch has been a perfect match for Stastny as Tuch’s speed helps settle defenses into the zone and Stastny then picks them apart with his vision. Almost all of Brandon Pirri’s unbelievable run of success has come because of his linemates helping to set him up in great positions to score. Of course, you’ve got to score them, which Pirri has done, but that line has what I call the “homerun hitter feeling” which is that every single time they are out there you are expecting something big to happen. When a homerun hitter in baseball is absolutely smoking, he hits one out once every 10th or 11th at bat, which is a fairly low number when you consider everyone watching feels like it is coming every single AB. That’s how Stastny, Tuch, and Pirri/Pacioretty have felt and it’s a lot of fun to watch.
Still doesn’t seem to be clicking for Max Pacioretty. Two goals in his last three but only 12 on the year, and some of the worst metrics on the team. Anyone getting impatient?
He’s been in and out of the lineup with injuries which culminated in a nasty looking one that kept him out for a bit. Since he’s come back, he looks like a completely different guy. He looks faster, he’s around the puck more, he’s popping up in dangerous areas more often, he looks like Max Pacioretty. People were growing very impatient with him (at one
point I called for him to be healthy scratched), but when he came back I decided to completely throw out the first portion of the season, give him a fresh start, and try to re-judge him as a player. In the four games since he’s been back, he looks terrific. I expect great things from Pacioretty for the rest of the year… as long as he’s healthy.
Is Wild Bill Karlsson’s contract going to get straightened out? Seems
weird this hasn’t been resolved yet given how the Knights have generally
It’s such a tough contract because he’s playing in a role that could easily command $9-10 million but his history suggests paying him that much would be ludicrous. Everybody involved seems to be in this holding pattern basically just wanting to gather more information. Is he really a 30-40 goal scorer? Is he really a #1 center? Is he really a consistent Selke candidate? He’s played for a year and a half, and we kind of have answers to those questions, but the more he plays the clearer it gets
for each side. Nothing would surprise me in these negotiations. I can see him taking a five-year deal at $5 million AAV, and I can see him getting a seven-year deal at $8 million AAV. I could also see it being signed tomorrow and I could see it going to all the way arbitration again (technically he signed minutes before the hearing). Either way, I don’t think William Karlsson is going anywhere any time soon.
Game #47 Preview Suite